Over the course of the next several months, all Legion Provincial Commands will be holding biennial conventions. Provincial executive members will change and I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank the outgoing members of the Provincial Executive Committees (PECs) for their hard work and strong belief in the important roles the Legion plays. To the newly elected officers, I say welcome and hope to see you contribute to an organization that is moving forward and adapting to the needs of Veterans and their families, some of which have become very complex. As you will see or have seen from my video, these are truly exciting times and I take considerable pride in the work every Legionnaire is doing as we celebrate the Legion’s 90th anniversary and move this organization forward into the 21st Century.
With all of these changes at the Command levels, it is crucial that the work of the Legion continues unabated. That leads me to the major reason for this letter, which is to thank all Legion members and their branches for their unyielding and selfless efforts and dedication. It is our Branches that are truly the backbone of the Legion.
Legion Branches – The Backbone of the Legion
Just as no chain is stronger than its weakest link, so too is The Royal Canadian Legion dependent on its strength from the support of its branches, a solid link that extends like a great chain reaching from coast to coast to coast and beyond our border to include four other countries: US, Mexico, Germany and the Netherlands.
It is this chain of Legion Branches that gives the Legion its status as a national organization; yet each of these branches is a unit upon itself, carrying on its own activities and doing its own work in the community in which it is established. It is through the local Legion branches that the Legion makes direct contact with Canadians and with the individual local Veterans and their families who may need assistance. Our Branches truly are the backbone of the Legion and collectively create our national footprint.
Legion Branches – Builders of goodwill
Much of the goodwill that has been built up by the Legion during its 90 years of existence has been achieved by the branches in their own communities. This work is not always spectacular. Most often it is done quietly, but effectively, and it is those individuals whose lives have been helped, whose homes have been saved, and whose problems have been addressed, who know firsthand what is being done.
The Legion has never been guilty of bragging too much, yet the local Legion branches, each in your own way, have made a very positive impact on their community. But this 90th anniversary cannot be allowed to pass without highlighting how branches serve Canada and its communities.
Legion Branches – Relief of Distress
Legion community service goes hand in hand with the service work it does for our Veterans. The economic impact of Legion volunteer work in countless towns and cities is immeasurable. This is not always recognized but true nevertheless.
Through the efforts of the Legion and in particular the Service Bureau, pensions or disability awards have been secured for some, war veterans’ allowances for others. It is no exaggeration to say that through the combined efforts of the Legion Branch and the Service Bureau Network, many of our ill and injured Veterans and their families may no longer need to be either homeless or on welfare.
Furthermore, the funds raised annually through the generous support of the Poppy campaign by Canadians, local branches have spent millions of dollars over the Legion’s 90-year history in the relief of distress, bringing comfort and happiness into the homes of thousands of Veterans. The value of this work by Legion branches cannot be measured in terms of dollars alone because it involves the respect and dignity of our Veterans, which has a value far beyond the money spent to achieve them through our Legion volunteers and comradeship.
Legion Branches – Community Centres
Throughout Canada, Legion Branches are praised as cornerstones of community activity, not only for the Veterans, but for the community at large. These branches truly are the cornerstone of their community, serving also as community halls for many non-Veteran activities as well such as weddings, holiday celebrations and other significant events in the life of a community.
Legion Branches – War Memorials
In nearly every town or city, or every rural centre where war memorials of some kind have been erected over many years, Legion branches have taken a leadership role in bringing them into being. These memorials have not always been monuments of stone. They have taken many forms such as statues, gardens of Remembrance, Commemorative Plaques or other mementos of service and commitment. Ever mindful of the Legion’s mission statement, Legion branches are continuously looking for ways to fulfill their obligation to see that suitable memorials are created to honour those who paid the supreme sacrifice. I would also argue that there are few communities in Canada which do not bear testimony to this fact.
Seen from this perspective, it is easy to understand that the synergy of this collective effort is unmatched by any other Veterans-based organization and we should all take pride in our accomplishments. Indeed, Legion branches, wherever they are established, are living up to the best traditions of our organization in their own localities and are endeavoring to serve their communities and their country just as effectively as their members did when they donned the uniform and served their country with pride and distinction.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I wish our newly elected officers all the best and to be aware of their role and the importance of our Legion Branches in the life of this organization.